Ig Nobel Prize winner Oppenheimer named the #1 business school professor

April 20th, 2015

Fortune magazine tells how an Ig Nobel Prize winner was named the top young business school professor:

The 10 top B-school professors under 40

Business school professors come in all stripes and colors. But the very best of the lot share a few common qualities: They are all supremely well educated, highly talented researchers, exceptional teachers, and, perhaps most important of all, they inspire students and their students inspire them.

With these qualities in mind, Poets&Quants has compiled its 2015 list of the very best business school professors under 40. Winning an Ig Nobel Prize is not enough to get a spot on this list. Neither is taking students to the Amazon. Or getting a class to show up wearing beer helmets. Or having your research featured on the John Oliver show. Or applying neuroscience to the negotiating process. But all of those things help….

Number one on the list is Danny Oppenheimer:


Danny Oppenheimer was awarded the 2006 Ig Nobel Prize for literature, for his report “Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly” (published in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, vol. 20, no. 2, March 2006, pp. 139-56).

BONUS: A new essay by Danny Oppenheimer, in Time magazine: “The problem’s not the NCAA. It’s players’ expectations of their peers

Ouroboros meets Artificial Intelligence

April 20th, 2015

Snake Eats TailIf you’ve examined The Enigmatic Book of the Netherworld , you’ll know that the mythical creature Ouroboros was a snake-like being traditionally depicted in the act of swallowing its own tail. The inherent symbolism of Ouroboros’s circularity has recently been adopted by the Artificial Intelligence fraternity – specifically by Dr. Knud Thomsen of the Paul Scherrer Institut, Switzerland. In 2008 he developed The Ouroboros Model of self-referential recursive processing with alternating phases of data acquisition and evaluation. How does it work?

“An iterative monitor process termed ‘consumption analysis’ is checking how well expectations triggered a one point in time fit with successive activations. A principal activity cycle is identified. Freezing for once the perpetually cycling activity and selecting an almost arbitrary starting point the following succession of steps can be outlined:

… anticipation,
action / perception,

These sub-processes are linked into a full circle, and the snake bites its end, the Ouroboros devours its tail.”

For further clarification, why not check out this video, from the Third Conference on Artificial General Intelligence, in which Dr. Thomsen highlights Concept Formation in the Ouroboros Model.

Note: The video might seem to drift in and out of focus. This is normal. It’s the video – not you, or your computer.

Earthy, tasty probiotic recipes

April 19th, 2015

Probiotic starter cultures come in many different flavors. Here are two that qualify as Not-off-the-shelf.

1. “Characterization of Lactic Acid Bacteria Isolated from Infant Faeces as Potential Probiotic Starter Cultures for Fermented Sausages.” This study was honored with the 2014 Ig Nobel Prize for nutrition.

2. Vaginal bacteria as probiotic starter culture for yogurt. Janet Jay, writing in Motherboard, tells the story of how this recipe came into existence, under the headline “How to Make Breakfast With Your Vagina“. Rosanne Hertzberger ponders the result. (Thanks to Charles Oppenheim for bringing this to our attention.)

Ig Nobel update: How well do oil and water mix, five years later?

April 19th, 2015

David Biello writes, in Scientific American, about “The Enduring Mystery of the Missing Oil Spilt in the Gulf of Mexico” — a detective story whose beginnings were told in an Ig Nobel Prize-winning study:

Workers uncovered a tar mat weighing some 18,000 kilograms just offshore of a natural barrier island in Louisiana in the summer of 2013. Although the tar mat turned out to bear more sand than oil, it represented another small fraction of the hydrocarbons that went missing after BP’s blowout in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The sum of all the dispersed oil located thus far, from tar mats to oily marine snow, hardly accounts for at least four million barrels of oil spewed into the cold, dark bottom of the Gulf of Mexico from the deep-sea well named Macondo five years ago. Like any good mystery, this one may never be solved….

eric_adamsThe 2010 Ig Nobel Prize for chemistry was awarded to  Eric Adams [pictured here] of MIT, Scott Socolofsky of Texas A&M University, Stephen Masutani of the University of Hawaii, and BP [British Petroleum], for disproving the old belief that oil and water don’t mix. [REFERENCE: “Review of Deep Oil Spill Modeling Activity Supported by the Deep Spill JIP and Offshore Operator’s Committee. Final Report,” Eric Adams and Scott Socolofsky, 2005.]

Randomness As a Tool to Produce More Women Leaders

April 18th, 2015

Further fodder for using randomness to make choices that are traditionally made by other, judgment-based methods:

goodallWomen have to enter the leadership race to win: Using random selection to increase the supply of women into senior positions,” Amanda H. Goodall [pictured here] and Margit Osterloh, 2015. The authors, at Cass Business School, City University, London and the University of Zürich, explicitly build on the work of 2010 Ig Nobel management prize winners Alessandro Pluchino, Andrea Rapisarda, and Cesare Garofalo:

“The supply of women into senior management has changed little despite well intentioned efforts. We argue that the biggest effect is from supply-side factors that inhibit females’ decision to enter competitions: Women are under-confident about winning, men are over-confident; women are more risk averse than men in some settings; and, most importantly, women shy away from competition. In order to change the conditions under which this is the case, this paper proposes a radical idea. It is to use a particular form of random selection of candidates to increase the supply of women into management positions. We argue that selective randomness would encourage women to enter tournaments; offer women ‘rejection insurance’; ensure equality over time; raise the standard of candidates; reduce homophily to improve diversity of people and ideas; and lessen ‘the chosen one’ factor. We also demonstrate, using Jensen’s inequality from applied mathematics, that random selection can improve organizational efficiency….

“Random processing, which includes screening to filter out inappropriate candidates, can in principle be used in many settings to correct and improve different kinds of procedures.18 Zeitoun, Osterloh and Frey (2014) propose developing a corporate governance model using random selection procedures to appoint stakeholder representatives to corporate boards. Pluchino, Rapisarda and Garofalo (2011) suggest using partial random selection as a promotion strategy that protects again the Peter Principle.”